Most of us are conversant with the reality show “Who wants to be a Millionaire” which originated in Britain in 1998 and now adapted to more than 160 countries in the world. In the gameshow, a contestant (who wishes to be a millionaire) faces a number of questions which she or he is expected to answer correctly as the individual progresses towards becoming a millionaire. Often when a question is asked and the individual requests to ask a friend by a phone-call-option (life-line), the presenter would call the friend in question and would often tell the person that the friend at the gameshow is ON A HOT SEAT.
To be on a hot seat means being in a pressure packed situatin. A situation where someone is faced with a lot of questions and scrutiny and answers are demanded immediately. A closer description could be a decisive oral interview or examination wherein answers are demanded forthwith.
To be on a hot seat is not what anyone would wish oneself. Nevertheless at one time or the other in life, we may find ourselves sitting on one based on some personal or communal reasons. However, for human beings to put God, their creator, on a hot seat is not only ridiculous but also a disillusion. Concretely, we see this happening in the First Reading (Ex.16:2-4.12-15) and the Gospel Reading (John 6:24-35).
In the First Reading, we are presented with the events following the exit of the people from the land of Egypt which included the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. On reaching the other side of the Red Sea, the people of Israel invited God to seat on a hot seat to answer some questions on account of the situation they were facing in the wilderness. The people quizzed God on why they had to die out of hunger in the wilderness. In their submission before God, it could have been better for them to have remained slaves in Egypt.
A closer examination of the content of the people’s revolt showed how ungrateful they could be. Fifteen days after crossing the Red Sea they began to accuse God of planning to do away with them in the desert. Two weeks and one day after an amazing crossing over to the other side of life they wished that they were on the other side of slavery and death just because they were hungry. After a fortnight the people of Israel imagined that God had abandoned them to perish.
We are often like the Israelites; quick to forget the things God had done for us. Very prone to undermining God’s power and might during the desert experiences of our lives. Yes, life is not all milk and honey. Actually before we get to the “milk and honey landscape” we may necessary pass through the desert of difficulties. The desert stands for the period of trials. The desert stands for the period of challenges. But we are not stuck in the desert; we pass through it. The people were after all fed with manner and quails.
In the gospel reading of today, we are presented with the aftermath of the multiplication of loaves. It is expected that those who participated in the meal from the five loaves of bread and two fish went home with joy and recounted the event to those who could not come. Based on this news, so many people came and began the ultimate search for Jesus. I can imagine the desperation during the legendry search for the Lord.
There is always a reason for every search. Nobody sets out to search for something just for the fun of searching; for every search there is a motive. Those who came seeking our Lord Jesus Christ had one treasure at heart and that is bread and perhaps fish too. They were actually committed searchers. They saw his followers leaving with a boat but without him; however crossing over to the other side of the sea they saw Jesus and wondered how he crossed over. Unknown to them he walked on the sea, just like the Israelites crossed over the Red Sea (though on dry shod).
When our Lord met the people at the other side of the sea, their motive for searching for him became clear. He actually told them directly and bluntly that their frantic search is directly connected with the multiplication of bread and not on account of their faith in the miracle itself. Here (John 6:26) Jesus Christ made it clear that there is a distinction between the outcome of a miracle and why such a given miracle was performed.
Let us attempt to understand why the miracle was done. Jesus Christ did not perform the miracle just for the sake of giving the people dinner; he actually established from the miracle that God cares comprehensively about us. He went on to tell them not to be bothered about perishable food, but about the one that gives eternal life and that is the one he (our Lord) gives. Furthermore they asked what they could do and our Lord Jesus asked them to believe in the one God has sent.
The people did not give up on the last statement of our Lord as they pressed further by asking Jesus for a miracle to convince them to believe in him; simply put the people made our Lord Jesus Christ to seat on a hot seat. They quoted the miracle of the Manna in the First Reading. In essence the people were insistent for another miracle of multiplication of bread. That was why they took the pain and risk to cross over the sea to Capernaum.
Our Lord then turned their attention to another kind of bread which upon partaking in it they will not be hungry again. Instantly they opted for that “miracle bread”. Contrary to their expectation, Jesus told them that he is that bread, the bread of life. This discussion will continue in the coming Sunday on Jesus Christ as the Living Bread.
Today, we are concerned with this attitude of putting God on a hot seat when we are confronted with certain challenges in our lives. The idea of asking God so many questions when things do not get on well with us. Very often we raise those question when we are looking forward to the satisfaction of our material needs. When we are faced with some identifiable lacks in our lives, we tend to put God on the hot seat to provide answers why things should not be excellent for us: “God why?” “God where are you?” “God are you keeping silent?” These are some of the foolish questions we ask God. On the other hand however, when we get superlative or good times we tend to forget that God even exists.
There are indeed many people who are searching or seeking Jesus in our day and age. Most of these people are not different from those who were seeking Jesus Christ in the Gospel Reading of today. As the people were seeking Jesus for the sake of bread and fish most people today still seek the Lord just for “magic” to be done in their lives (not even miracles because there is a difference between magic and miracle).
It is not uncommon that most of people butterfly from one church to the other, from one religious house to another in search of signs and wonders not faith in God. Some people are fundamentally attracted to those worship centres where it is perceived that there is someone (a man or a woman) who sees vision and can perform wonders. Miracles are not the essence of our Christian vocation.
The great miracle is that you know God; the greater miracle is that you worship Him, love him as well as others and the greatest miracle is that you finally be with him in heaven. If we understand these very well, there will be no need for us to search for Jesus because of perishable things rather for values that are eternal (Matt. 6:33). God knows our challenges and He knows also our chances.
Putting God on a hot seat because of what is facing us now shows our lack of faith in Him. In the Second Reading (Eph.4:17.20-24) St. Paul related it to the old man in us which belongs to the former manner of life. There is need for us then, like he suggested, that we be renewed in mind and spirit by putting on the new man. With the new man and new mind we search for God to know Him, Love Him and be with Him. With the new man in us we stop questioning God and pray and wait for Him to act.
Have a wonderful Sunday and indeed a graceful Month of August.